Study Days

If you wish come to one of my study days held in Ashtead, please be aware that numbers are limited to 8. The price of £28 inc of coffee, tea and a light lunch.  

If you would like me to come and give a study day on any of the following subjects, please email me at 

Tudor subjects

Stranger Painters of the Tudor Court: 1485 – 1558    

Mention Henry VIII to anyone and they will probably think of the powerful image painted by Hans Holbein of a luxuriously dressed man standing with his hands on his hips and his legs apart.  That particular painting is in the Walker Gallery, Liverpool and David Starkey once described it as the first portrait of a fat man!

The Holbein portrait of Henry VIII is in the Thyssen- Bornemisza Museum in Madrid and dates from c 1537.

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Henry VIII: Thyssen- Bornemisza Museum, Madrid

Henry is in his mid forties and very much as we think of him today.  Painted after the death of his wife, Queen Jane Seymour, it was probably designed to show Henry at his best to any possible future queen.  However, Holbein is famous for capturing the inner personality and there is no shrinking from the hint of the man behind the fancy clothes when you look at that pinched mouth and calculating eyes.  This is a man who will brook absolutely no criticism of anything he does.

The art of illuminator was also high on the king’s list of artistic weaponry for the illumination of treaties, letters patent, the painting of miniature portraits, in the mid 1520s and it was the Horenbout family who were invited to court.  Lucas and his sister Susannah provided the services of illuminator to the royal library.  Susannah later became a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves.  When Lucas died in 1544 another woman artist was invited to fill his place and Levina Teerlinc and her husband came to court in 1546.  Levina would eventually serve Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

When it came to the decorating of palaces, artisan craftsmen were invited from all over Europe.  From when he became King’s Almoner in 1509 up until the failure to secure a divorce for the king from Katherine of Aragon, Cardinal Wolsey was one of the great patrons of the arts.  Stained glass workers from Flanders were invited to provide the glass for the chapel at Wolsey’s Hampton Court.  They same team worked on the windows of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.  Unknown woodcarvers worked on the rood screen of King’s College Chapel and here we see references to the love affair and the ill fated Anne Boleyn.

Interior decoration and the design of luxury items have survived in sketches by the great Hans Holbein the Younger giving us an idea of the display of wealth shown by the social elite.

After the death of Holbein in 1543 William Scrots was invited to become court painter and with the Reformation in full swing in Europe, England was a place of refuge for many artists looking for work.  Other artistic emigres include Hans Eworth who introduced the allegorical portrait to England and was the artist of choice of England’s first queen regnant, Mary I.  The illuminator who continued in post was Levina Teerlinc, who during her lifetime surved four of the five Tudor monarchs.  She died in 1576 during the reign of Elizabeth I.

We will examine the role of the official court artist, the individual artists, their place in society and just how these artists created the Tudor ‘brand’.

Hans Holbein the Younger: His life and works. (1497/8 – 1543)

Holbein was born right at the end of the 15th century and grew up in one of the most turbulent periods of early modern European history.  As more research is done on this giant of the art history world, we are beginning to learn more of his early life in Basel, Lucerne and why he came to England for a period of two years from 1526 – 28.

1517 is the year Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the door of Worms cathedral and sets alight the torch of the movement we now call The Reformation.  The 18, or possibly 19 year old, Holbein was in Basel with his older brother Ambrose and associating with the scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam and other humanist thinkers.  The brothers were producing engravings and woodcuts for printers and designing printers’ marks, title pages for books, designs for goldsmiths and in the case of Hans Holbein, painting portraits.

It is not until his return from Basel in 1531/2 that Holbein rises to the rank of court artist, thanks to the patronage of Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn.  He paints many portraits of members of the court, some of which are now lost and only known through reference in inventories.  One of the rare surviving portraits of one who fell from grace is the portrait of Thomas Cromwell (below) now in the Frick Collection, New York .

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Thomas Cromwell: Frick Collection New York

This day course will track the development of the artist and how the revolution in religion appears to have affected Holbein’s work as he sought to convey the truthful personality in the portraits of those he painted; the surviving designs for loving cups such as the ones designed and created for Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour; his relationship with members of the Hanseatic League and his neighbours who have been immortalised in both large and miniature portraits.

The Art of Illumination at the Tudor Court: 1485-1603.

Much of the work of the miniaturists (or limners as they should more properly be called) is anonymous, but there are various works attributed to artists such as Lucas Horenbout and his sister Susannah, Hans Holbein, and Levina Teerlinc.  We will look at how these exquisite portraits and paintings were executed and how the miniature portrait of the monarch was used in in treaties,

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Illuminated H showing portrait of Henry VIII: Letters Patent granted to Thomas Forster in 1526. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

legal documents such as this illuminated patent, the illumination of the Crampe Ring Prayer book and the designers of the title pages for the first two imprints of Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer.

The Crampe Ring manuscript commissioned by Mary I is a treasure of the English Catholic Church and held in Muniment Room, Westminster Abbey.The manuscript sets out the service for the Sovereign’s laying on of hands in order to cure the King’s evil and the service was reinstated when Mary I came to the throne in 1533.

We will examine the various manuscripts commissioned by Cardinal Wolsey, an illuminated Book of Hours with covert notes scibbled in the margin by the king and Anne Boleyn.  We will also discover how the individual portrait developed from that of the patron included within an illuminated document such as the psalter commissioned by Henry VIII from the French artist, Jean Maillard, into individual images.

By the end of the century printing was the main way of producing books, artists were required to produce illustrations.  Some designed woodcuts, others engraved copper plates and these my have remained in black and white, but a luxury edition may have been hand coloured.  There was little call for the illuminator except for the occasional charter. Ashbourne free school and Emmanuel College, Cambridge both have illuminated charters, but these were rare commissions.  However, from the frontispiece of the Bishop’s Bible to the front sheets of the Coram Rege rolls there was still a requirement for someone who could create these images.

We will look at the lives and works of the diverse artists who came to London in search of royal patronage and how the work they produced changed from the illuminated manuscripts of the late 15th century to the illuminated charters and legal documents of the early 1600s.

Nicholas Hilliard and the creating of Gloriana: 1547-1619

Nicholas Hilliard was England’s first home bred artist who won international fame.  We will examine his life and work and consider his artistic relationship to Elizabeth I. The Elizabethan age was a time of exploration and Hilliard painted many famous people of his day.  Unfortunately, there are very few of his miniatures where the identity of his sitters are known, but where they are we are able to put faces to well known names such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, in addition to those of Sir Christopher Hatton, Robert Dudley and Elizabeth herself.

Hilliard self portrait
Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619) Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Our exploration of Hilliard’s work will include an analysis of individual portraits, an explanation of the symbolism contained in  them, including a suggested interpretation of the miniature of a young man holding a hand coming from a cloud with the mysterious motto Attici Amoris Ergo‘ .

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Attici Amoris Ergo Image courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum London, 60×49.5mm

The Marketing of Monarchy

Henry VII might be considered by some to have been a miser.  When the accounts are examined the better description might be ‘careful’ with his money. His indomitable mother, Margaret Beaufort, has one of the most enduring emblems – the portcullis, which appears on the headed paper of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It appears as the logo of Her Majesty’s Government and Customs & Excise.  In short, this has to be the most successful of branding logos of all time, except most people do not make the connection.

When Henry Tudor had secured the throne he set about using motifs to show the world that the Wars of the Roses were over. The red and white roses of Lancaster and York were combined into the red and white Tudor rose.  The rose appears in manuscripts, carved into stone work on the outside of 16th century buildings, as ceiling bosses made out of boiled leather then painted.  It too has become an internationally recognised symbol of the Tudors.

However, at the end of the 15thcentury England was a mere blip on the horizon when it came to cutting a dash with architecture and art.  For example, one of the major architecture projects was the completion of the building of King’s College Chapel, started by Henry VI in 1446.  Henry VII left money in his will to  perfourme and end al the warkes that is not yet doon in the said chirche”.

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Stained glass by Galon Hone.

When Henry VIII ascended to the throne in 1509, he inherited full coffers and a desire to be regarded as a Renaissance prince of taste and style.  England attracted many craftsmen of many disciplines whose work can be seen to this day in the buildings, carvings, stained glass, painting and manuscript illumination.  Henry VIII knew the value of visual propaganda.

This study day will explore the art and architecture, the patrons who emulated both king and cardinal in their love of display, and the technical advances in ship building that made England so successful on the high seas.

The Making of Gloriana

In November 1558 Princess Elizabeth succeeded her sister Mary as queen of England and reigned for forty-five years.  If there was a single English monarch who knew the power of image it was Elizabeth I, even more so than her flamboyant father.

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detail of one of three versions of The Armada Portrait

The power of the portrait as a diplomatic tool, be it in a large (table) image that hangs on the wall could show your loyalty; or a miniature portrait that could be held in the hand and given as a sign of royal favour, was immense.  The creation of the myth of England’s Virgin Queen, using motifs, colour, her fabulous jewels and wardrobe was very carefully considered and evolved as she grew older.  The concept of an Arthurian court was used for the Accession day jousts and courtly chivalric love was played out at court.

Dubbed Gloriana we will look at how England’s great queen developed and promoted the concept of queenship as England’s return to a Golden Age through the literature, paintings as well as significant events.

European history and art history study days

 Italian High Renaissance & Mannerism 1501 – 1600.

How and why did artistic influence shift to Rome?  Looking at the patrons and the political events of the time, we will explore how art changed.  The physical and spiritual exploration of the world and religion was documented in the art of such artists as Titian, Raphael, Veronese, Giorgione, Sangallo, Bramante, El Greco and, of course, Michaelangelo.  However, art was changing from the salutation of the glory of God into a luxury consumer item, so we will examine how and why this was so and why the subject matter was moving away from the religious into allegorical and historical subjects and pandering to the “Male Gaze”.

1350 – 1550. The Exchange of Ideas between Southern & Northern Europe: Giotto & Van Eyck to Michelangelo & Hans Holbein the Younger.

We will delve into the work of the Italian masters starting with Cimabue & Giotto up to Michelagelo and Titian and compare them with the works of The Master of Flemalle, JanVan Eyck, Van der Weyden up to Hans Holbein the Younger and Francois Clouet, both court artists.  We will examine the works of these great artists in the light of the politics of the day; how they were considered by society and how they reacted to the interchange of ideas.

The difference between the Northern and Italian artists was so profound that Michelangelo was moved to say,

“….  Italian painting was devout, but would not cause the worshipper to shed a tear, whereas the work of the Flemish painters could move them to shed many.”

Comparing the work of artists from both areas and looking at the history of the time we will endeavour to come to some explanation for the differences between Northern & Southern European Renaissance art.

Art & Patronage in Renaissance Italy: 1350 – 1500.

Sculpture and architecture changed in the aftermath of The Black Death, but why did this event have such an effect on civilisation?  By exploring the events of the period and looking at the  who commissioned art and sculpture, we will build a picture of what life was like during the early Renaissance and why art became so important as a political and religious tool.  We will examine how surviving documents of the ancient world were reinterpreted and became the movement known as ‘humanism’.  How this movement influenced all aspects of life including sculpture, painting and architecture.  The patrons of art were the rich and powerful and we will look at who they were, what they commissioned artists to paint and sculpt for them and why.

The Rise of the Venetian Republic from the Fall of Rome to 1500.

From the fall of the Roman Empire to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 Venice ruled the eastern Mediterranean. Trade made Venice rich and there were Venetian enclaves in all the major ports in the Black Sea, Egypt and Palestine. The exchange of ideas and influences of these different nations are still apparent in the architecture of the palazzos and of course St Mark’s Basilica.

From 1000 AD onwards saw the rise of Venice’s power and trading influence. We will track how the city state rose from the salty marsh to become one of the most powerful trading and naval powers of the late medieval period.

Illuminated Manuscripts Fit for a King.

Illuminated manuscripts were expensive luxury items. Originally created in religious scriptoria, the first were illuminated religious books.  Soon centres of excellence for illumination and transcribing books other than devotional texts emerged. We are extremely lucky in that our British Library holds a superb collection of illuminated manuscripts that were produced for kings, princes, nobles and those aspiring to the gentry.  Owning an illuminated book was one way of showing your wealth and status.

f11r Royal 19 C VIII

We will look at all types of illuminated manuscripts. Many give us a glimpse of the artist, but most are by anonymous painters who go by the soubriquet “The Master of …”.  This particular image (below) is from a book of instruction for a prince written by Henry VII’s keeper of the royal library, Quentin Poulet. Here a knight is introduced to Lady Imagination. The artist has included a monkey at the bottom right hand corner of the page.  Monkeys were a symbol of lust so perhaps this is a visual warning not to fall prey for our young man not to the pleasure of the flesh.

Some books came into the royal library because they were the spoils of war; others because they were gifts.  Some were handed down through families and include personal notes in the calendars giving us a close connection with the owner and the world around them.

The golden age of illumination was from the mid 15th to the mid 16th centuries and centred on three workshops, the David, the Horenbout and the Bening. By the 1540s Simon Bening was the last man standing and is considered the last of the great illuminators. We shall be looking at some manuscripts that came from these workshops so you can see for yourselves their beauty and the symbolism contained in both the large pages and also the margins.

The Normans In Europe

Every student of English history knows that in 1066 William, Duke of Normandy, conquered England.  What is less known is the role the Normans had in Europe from the 10thto the mid 12thcentury.

Thanks to the rule of primogeniture many younger sons of nobles either went into the church or, if they were not of a religious bent, went in search of land and fortune elsewhere in Europe.

This study day explores how the de Hauteville boys and the Drengot family fought as mercenaries in the Italian peninsula and became dukes and counts. Eventually a de Hauteville would become the king of Sicily and because he did not take part in the crusades, he became the richest man in Europe.  Other de Hautevilles were present at the siege of Jerusalem and Bohemed became Prince of Antioch.

So how come they, like their English Norman relatives, had virtually disappeared within three centuries?  We will look at their adventures and military successes across Europe as well as their architectural legacy in Sicily and elsewhere in Europe.

The Albeigensian Crusade

Pope Innocent III launched the crusade against the Cathars of Languedoc at the beginning of the 13thcentury because of the perceived threat to the Catholic church.  The papal legate, Pierre de Castelnau was murdered in January 1208 possibly by a member of the court of the Count of Toulouse.  The pope excommunicated the count and launched the crusade with the promise of Cathar lands to any Frenchman who took up the cause.

The Cathars rejected the doctrine of the church of Rome, and preached a return to the idea of rejecting materialism, and embracing poverty as described by Christ.  The Cathar reforms were a reaction against the overt luxurious lifestyles of the various Catholic clerics of southwest France.

The resulting genocide of thousands of people of this region and the land grab made by the nobles who joined the pope’s call to arms changed the political landscape in such a way that echoes down the centuries.  Today the cities such as Carcassonne and Bezier have made the Cathar persecution part of a lucrative tourist trail.